Known as ‘Cyber Centurion’ on this side of the Atlantic, a new competition wants to prepare young students for careers in cyber security
US defence giant Northrop Grumman is set to launch the ‘Cyber Patriot’ cyber security competition in the UK, under the name ‘Cyber Centurion’.
The programme, run in partnership with Cyber Security Challenge UK, is aimed at teenagers aged 12 to 18, and consists of several rounds of competitive defence exercises. The first practice round will take place in October, followed by two ‘live fire exercises’ and the finals in April 2015. Interested parties can already register on the website.
“There is such a critical skills gap around the world with qualified, capable cyber talent and the objective is to grow that talent, build a pipeline so that the youth are ready to take on the professional positions that will be open to them as they compete their education and go into their careers,” Diane Miller, programme director for ‘Cyber Patriot’ told TechWeekEurope.
Cyber Patriot was established by the US Air Force Association – a non-profit, civilian organisation founded in 1945 to promote aerospace education. Designed to fight the shortage of qualified security professionals, the programme has engaged 250,000 children across the US since 2009. It has been sponsored by Northrop Grumman since 2010.
According to a recent survey, 80 percent of Cyber Patriot participants pursue a career in security or a related technology field. Cyber Centurion is the first ever attempt to adopt the US programme for Europe and it hopes to engage thousands of Army cadets, scouts and students at schools and colleges across Britain.
While the Cyber Security Challenge is aimed at a broader audience and a wider age group, Cyber Centurion tests basic knowledge of cyber defence, helping young people decide if they want to pursue a career in the industry.
During the competition, the teams of up to six people are presented with a virtual computer image full of vulnerabilities that could enable an attacker to compromise the system. The teams have approximately six hours to identify and fix these vulnerabilities, each carrying a score depending on its complexity.
Judging is based both on the vulnerabilities fixed and the time taken to complete the task. After two rounds, the scores are combined and the top six teams progress to a face-to-face showdown. The prizes on offer haven’t been announced yet, but are likely to include internships at security companies and tickets to industry conferences.
According to Miller, being a team-based competition, Cyber Centurion develops not just technical skills and understanding of cyber ethics, but also communication and teamwork, which are no less important in the workplace.
“Cyber Patriot got me on my feet, in terms of learning about cyber security and cyber defence,” Greg Bekher, a former Cyber Patriot champion who now works for Northrop Grumman told us. “And the internship that followed also gave me a good view into how cyber security works as a career. It helped me decide where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do in life.”
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